Ross County F.C. are off to the Netherlands for the third preseason running this coming week, culminating in a match against FC Twente on August 1. This year’s excursion will have training as its main purpose but, one suspects, it will also serve as a scouting trip for the coaching staff looking ahead to the 2015-2016…or even the January transfer window this season. The trip will also serve as a sort of homecoming for County’s four Dutch players and even for new signing Tim Dreesen, who is from neighboring Belgium, but played in the Netherlands for the four years immediately preceding his move to Dingwall.
County’s opening match of the season against St. Johnstone F.C. has also been postponed by a day to August 10 as a result of St. Johnstone winning their tie against FC Luzern in the UEFA Europa League 2nd Qualifying Round. I’d also like to point out that St. Johnstone did this with a starting line-up which featured 10 Scottish players- including former Ross County defender Gary Miller- and five more Scots on the bench.
In other Europa League news, Aberdeen defeat Groningen to move on in the competition, while Motherwell exited the competition, losing to Iceland’s UMF Stjaran on penalty kicks. In the starting line-up for Stjaran was American midfielder Pablo Punyed. The 24 year old St. John’s product was a second round pick of Sporting Kansas City in the 2012 MLS Supplemental draft and is now in his third year of football in Iceland and his first with Stjaran.
In yet more good news for Scottish football, recent days have seen Dundee United and Scotland U21 star Ryan Gauld, age 18, sign a contract with Sporting Lisbon in Portugal. Sporting paid a £3m transfer fee for the diminutive midfielder and should another club want him prior to the end of his six year contract Sporting will be asking almost £50m for the privilege. Also moving to a new club was Dundee United and Scotland left back Andrew Robinson, who has joined Premier League side Hully City F.C. for a fee of £2m.
The New England Revolution fell to the Columbus Crew, 2-1, last night to bring their losing streak to eight matches. Thankfully I was off playing soccer and didn’t have to watch it happen. I still don’t think Jay Heaps should be fired, but it’s probably going to happen if only because ownership doesn’t want to take responsibility for this mess and will gladly push Heaps under the team bus to avoid doing so.
Tim Howard said this week that there’s basically no chance of him coming back to MLS at the end of his career. Now before you get all crabby, keep in mind that the 35 year old goalkeeper is under contract with Everton until 2018- when he’ll be 39 years old. There’s no reason why, even at that age, he won’t have a few more years in him, but if he does, you can bet they’ll be spent at Everton, and not propping the attendance figures at the new MLS franchise in Rapid City, or Flagstaff, or Waco, or wherever. It’s the right decision.
Finally, the Bebe saga is over…sort of. Tiago Manuel Dias Correia, “Bebe,” who Sir Alex Ferguson famously paid £7.4m for in 2010 despite never having seen him play- even on tape!- has signed a four year deal with Benfica- with a 50% “sell on” clause still held by United. Bebe made a grand total of 7 senior appearances (with 2 goals) for United in four seasons. While on loans from 2011-2014 he played for Besiktas (4 appearances, no goals), Rio Ave (19 appearances, 2 goals), and Pacos de Ferreira (39 appearances, 14 goals).